While the draft may be the most exciting event of the fantasy hockey season, championships are won and lost on the less glamorous waiver wire. This year alone, waiver wire pick-ups like Joffrey Lupul, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Brad Marchand, Olli Jokinen and Ray Whitney have helped catapult astute managers to the top of their leagues. Some of these players turn out to be flashes in the pan, like Sheldon Souray or Ryan Smyth early in the season, but other do hang around for all 82 games. With that being said, there is still some talent to be pulled from the free agent pile to help improve your team. Let’s have a look at some useful players who are owned in less than 50% of Yahoo! leagues.
Max Pacioretty – 47%
Anybody who reads the Big 50 knows of my love for Pacioretty. Last season he scored 14 goals in an abbreviated 37 games, and this year is putting the puck on net even more. He is on pace for about 275 shots. Last year, players who took more than 270 shots averaged 33 goals. While he is having a bit of bad luck at the moment with an 8.8% shooting percentage, a potential 30 goal season is a steal when it comes to the waiver wire.
Daniel Alfredsson – 46%
We here at Daily Faceoff had essentially written Alfredsson off, ranking him the 30th best RW going into the 2011-12 season. It seemed like a logical choice after an injury-plagued 2010-11 season in which he managed only 31 points, not to mention a -19 rating. He started slow again this season, recording only 10 points through the end of November. Since then, he has 18 points in 16 games, including 12 points at even strength. It would be foolish to expect him to keep producing at a 90+ point pace, and the injury risk looms for a players of his age, but it may be a good idea to ride the hot hand.
Blake Wheeler – 32%
The lack of interest shown in Wheeler is a little perplexing. Yes he has disappointed thus far in his NHL career, but he has the pedigree (5th overall pick) and just turned 25 a month before the season started. He has also spent the season sharing a line with the talented Evander Kane. So far, Wheeler has notched 22 assists in 38 games, which ranks among the top 25 forwards in the NHL. Even if he does improve his 7.3% shooting percentage, he will probably never be more than a 20 goal scorer, but those assists are nice when mixed in with a handful of powerplay points.
Adam Henrique – 29%
Henrique is a little one-dimensional in that he doesn’t contribute much in any category other than points, but when you’re digging in the bargain bin, beggars can’t be choosers. He has 28 points on the season, an impressive number considering he spent almost 2 weeks in the minors, and in the early part of the season was not getting much ice time. He is now centering Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, a pair of stars who have combined for 557 career goals. While his current goal total of 10 is inflated by a 14.5% shooting percentage, the assists should keep pouring in as long he continues to see the ice with the aforementioned snipers on his wings.
Cory Schneider – 44%
Tuukka Rask was close to making the cut at 54%, so I will just say that if you play in a league that counts SV% and GAA as opposed to totaling up saves and goals against into a raw point total, Rask should absolutely be on your team. As for Schneider, he is a bit less valuable, but depending on your league format, still a good pick-up. After taking over for an injured Luongo for the better part of a month, and recording a pair of shutouts, Schneider has only played four times in the last month. However, the Canucks have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL and now stand in 2nd place in the West, so he is a good bet to win every time he takes the ice. Essentially it comes down to if you can get more starts from a 4th goalie as opposed to a 13th forward. I’ll leave that decision up to you, but he is one of the better back-ups to own in fantasy hockey.